One & Done: Writing Stars Sometimes Do Align

When you first put eyes on the man you knew who’d be your husband. The opening notes of a song that strums your soul, still gives you chills when you’re reunited years later. How a perfect canvas sky at sunrise or sunset leaves you spellbound. The awe you hold in a composer, a painter, or any other artist getting a project right on the first go, the first shot, the first time out.

I’ll let you on a little secret. Don’t tell anybody.

It. Does. Happen.

Let me explain.

Sometimes when you draft a scene, a character sketch, a chapter or chapters, whichever your writing project is under your fingertips, you can–and do!–get it right on the first try. I’m here to exclaim, take back, and boldly proclaim: IT HAPPENS!!! The magic pixie dust found you that day, took a liking to you, and left you some of its glittery jet wash in its fumes.

Here’s a few instances–

We Are The World,” co-written by Lionel Ritchie and Michael Jackson, both completed the song’s lyrics and melody in 2.5 hours, and recorded the song in a single session.

Sir Paul McCartney, in writing the 007 Live and Let Die theme, had movie execs wait five days for the work–when he’d written the music in a scant 45 minutes. According to the anecdote relayed in Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 countdown, “I didn’t want the movie brasses to think this was easy, but it was.”

Alanis Morrisette wrote her 1990s hit “Ironic” in an hour.

The blind guy who hit a hole-in-one on his only try.

Chapter 18 of JERSEY DOGS called “A Little Rusk Nikk’ed Us.”

Woodstock, 1969.

Any MLB team’s first try for, or breaking a century-long drought, at a World Series win.

And countless times when people played the lottery on a sole instance, and hit the number big.

So don’t tell me when you bang out a first draft of anything it’s impossible to get it right ON the first go, in the first go. Granted, this is a diff’rent post from calling that first one-and-done draft novel perfect; it ain’t. The book’s likely purple prose-y, your story’s taking forever to get to the point, it’s adverb- or passive voice-heavy, etc. You know who youse are :).

BUT . . . some chapters, or sentence phrasing(s), scenes, or certain word choices ARE perfect in the middle of that first draft crapstorm you can pluck free that which resonated most, and build around this in the coming revisions.

An article in the September 2019 issue of The Writer, “Stop Trash-Talking Your First Draft” puts it brilliantly: “You wouldn’t call your firstborn a sh*tty first draft, would you? Of course not! Even if the baby may have correctable health problems or non, that child is imperfectly perfect, period. Anyone saying to you that child is a crappy first draft, you’d say they’re abominable human beings. The first breaths of life in that early writing draft isn’t any different.” (paraphrasing mine.)

Whether you’re a veteran author or a brand-new writer ten minutes ago, the first draft is part of the writing process. But if the end result isn’t called the horrific names the first draft gets, why should the first draft be treated like a bastard at a family reunion? This reference is a great piece I can’t encourage to be read enough. Feel empowered when you come away from it–I’ll betcha you do, as you should. I did–and if anyone knows how much a hardass I am, I was a wet and snotty cottonball after the piece. (Forget you read that “wet and snotty cottonball” part–I’m a hardass, rememeber?)

So write the first draft with abandon! Come to its defense, warts and all; who else will if not you? The article also questioned when did it become sacred to trash the first shoots of life in a brand-new piece to begin with. It ruminates Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird had much to do with the first draft getting the hot pile of bat guano label, but maybe, the article’s author muses, it might be time to put this line of thought in the trash. I could not agree more. Also paraphrasing mine: Just because Bird rode high on the writers’ reference bookshelves and bestsellers lists, doesn’t mean its apologia is airtight–or shouldn’t be questioned, revised, or even abandoned altogether if its information isn’t applicable or merited anymore.

First-run tries do periodically knock it out the park. Is this a fluke? An oddity? Chance? Absolutely. But trashing the first drafts have gotten the sacred cow status in the writing world–and perhaps your writing lives–long enough. The initial piece may be in rough shape, but you got the damn thing OUT in the first place. The potential the work holds is enough to NOT tag it as crappy, even if it isn’t in a no-need-to-edit perfect place on the first doggoned try.

I’ll let you in on another inside baseball secret: Every word above this paragraph virtually poured out of me for this month’s post on the first go, easy to align my thoughts on the article’s topic, only an edit or two for clarity, continuity, and relevance. But, as that damn bitch called The Muse mule does, when Bessie’s out of steam, she’s not moving for anyone until she’s good and ready. Then it hit me. Rather, Bessie, my mule of a Muse, kicked me (is this her helping me plow another 40 acres of a blog post? You decide. **smirk**) to bookend this aspect of my writing life in a way I didn’t think plausible. The second reason this post couldn’t be more timely: this article vindicates me to my now disbanded online critique group my first Casebook got ripped to hell for. I told that group at the time I knew I was instinctively right to defend the book’s parts that fit when the self-righteous–and traditionally published in the group–mob tried to justify their words in tearing it down. But that’s another blog post for another time.

Create? Yes. Re-Create? Sh*t, No!

Let’s revisit and unpack our “We Are the World” by USA For Africa example–can that magic be re-created? No, unfortunately. Or when you first read Harry Potter, saw the movies, had your first child, or found your car unicorn. Can you re-create that exact perfect first draft moment with all its magical elements falling into place where they should, as they should? Nope. This is why you don’t see Lionel Ritchie, Quincy Jones, J.K. Rowling, et al trying to re-do what sheer dumb luck, fantastic timing, and a lot of Tinkerbell’s dust helped that magic come together, and hold together, in the first place. Imagine trying to re-create Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. The Back to the Future, Toy Story, or the Indiana Jones flicks. If anything, somebody should’ve told Michael Wang this 1 Corinthians 10:23 lesson before taking the thought of creating Woodstock 50 in mind: Just because you can do something, dun mean you should do it.

“When it’s perfect, be it from the onset or after many rounds of revisions, then let it go. If you keep tweaking, you’ll tweak the perfect out of it.” —Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way, 25th Anniversary Edition (paraphrasing mine)

If Cameron’s second-to-none resource is helping you to be okay with finally silencing your mother’s words, the inner editor and outer critics, naysayers, and downright haters of first drafts for being in that pole position, then be okay with it. Don’t even let Anne Lamott tell you diff’rent. Think about it: How much pressure is on her to defend her position?

The defense rests.

I attended a NYC 2011 workshop where Reed Farrell Coleman spoke on a similar topic. He knew a would-be author a few years prior revising his book’s opening chapter–both hands on the wheel, please, or swallow your hot beverage before reading on–27 times.

You read correctly. Twenty. Seven. Times.

But this was made more bittersweet because, Coleman said, this author had been one of the first detectives on scene hours after the Twin Towers were still hot ash, hot rubble, and chaos. He’d been diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer as he drafted the novel, so Coleman point-blank told him, “Dude, you don’t have time to revise this much. Take the best of the suggestions and move on; the opening’s gonna be what it’s gonna be!”

The author took Coleman’s advice and moved on. But he died before ever completing his book. How much time he’d lost on something that didn’t need that much fussing about to begin with, and sadly, the world will never know what would have been.

This is what Cameron means about tweaking the perfect out of the imperfect, and this includes first time tries being right . . . the first time out. You, Dear Author, need not diss the WIPs in the zygotic stage of life. Let it go. Be proud you get to watch it fly–or cradle it to the next world with dignity and grace in one hell of a send off.

As always, you got this.

~ Missye

* * *

You’re still here?

Um . . .why?

The piece is over. I mean, I know you want more of me–or wished the Toy Story franchise ended at TS3 like I do, or more Pottermore following Harry and the wizarding gang all growed up–but sorry, ain’t got that for ya. I’ll be back next month, Lord willing, with another scintillating, firestarting post. Go feed your cat or clean his box, since he’s giving you that stink-eye felines perfected waiting on their humans to tend them.

No?

Sigh.

I didn’t want to do this, but . . . this goes dark in 3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . .

“Patience, Hummingbird”

Authors of this and other platforms are still writing of the Chinese Virus and its effects now and long term. Stretching finances so hard you’re scared how bad the recoil will sting if you dare let go. How do first-time homeschoolers keep from going bats. An uptick in board game sales (I’d give almost anything to be that monarch butterfly on an overhead wall of the group playing Monopoly, The Cheaters Edition!). A new spin on old leftovers. Staying connected and sane despite isolation–is this really an introvert’s paradise? New hobbies found after streaming service binges become one day of the week into the next. The dozens of notables who’ve passed during this rotten transition into a new normal. Despite their death and we’re all sick of all things COVID to the back teeth, life goes on. But the deaths seem to punch a bigger, nastier, hurting hole into this reality more than any of us are ready for.

So I’m doing a first, hours before this post is due for my 2nd Saturday monthly jam: the patience I need is–
–Woth myself
–With other authors
–With God
–With other mere mortals.
I’m burned out from Monopoly, Uno, Duraq, and Jenga, yet my mind’s too wired to read. My phone’s storage is near tapped in Ooooh-look!-Shiny app downloads, but I’m grouchier with myself, God, my loved ones, my characters. My writing life, upheaval aside and not for lack of trying, is at a standstill. Family members have COVID updated or took their leave of this dimension, I’m now neck-deep in toiletries to open a small supply depot over. And tthe next salon/spa/massage visit feels like it’s twelve light years out waiting for my turn to feel normal again.

A study in my phone’s Bible app talking about this Jumanji event had a line that jumped out at me this past June–

“Don’t expect people to live up to my standards, since I don’t have any clue what those are in these times. This IS a new normal, like it or not. Nobody has a playbook to be guided by, not even you. Be especially patient with others, with God, with the circumstance, and most impotanrly, with myself. Whatever or whomever is perplexing you, just let it go, let it ride, or let it be.”

.

Well, that wrecking ball of straightshootin’ common sense snacked me upside my stubborn head. Aren’t we patient with ourslves in learning a new skill, working with a new hire, or wrestling with a storyline, for whichever unexplicable reason, isn’t coming together as it should?

You sure are. I sure am.

So why contradict this?

While following a streaming yoga workout this week past, during it, the camera guy caught a gorgeous hummingbird outside the instructor’s patio window. I’m a sucker for anything flying on its own power, so my ADHD mind went nuts over this. But his soothing voice and telling the followers to not move a muscle, lest he startle the bird away, was that stroking-a-ferret-to-sleep to my ADHD thoughts, and they soon Zen’ed out. In a balmier frame of mind, the paradox of the hummingbird surfaced. The wings beat blurringly fast, but even this creature knows when to slow or when to move on when it’s time. Fast as it moves, it has to be patient with itself, or die burning itaelf out before its work is finished.

As I work this, Sweet Reader, you may enjoy and be entertained and informed by my nimble fingers feverishly keeping pace with my Road-Runner-on-‘roids thoughts, two scenes are marinating for my projects I’m thisclose to getting down. I’m a monthly subscriber to a writing box company to spur creativity again (and of course, LoM gets first review dibs when I’ve played with the goodies for a stretch). I’m planning a near-year end trip with my husband to New York’s Howe Caverns and the Corning Glass Museum, and to visit a friend whose husband died this past spring in a freak work accident. Trips like these do FAR more for my writing mojo than the traditional and indie industry gatherings do. And I’ll call a spade a spade–who needs a weekend-long pissing contest in the guise of friendly camaraderie with fellow authors over strategies we’ve heard inside out? I don’t.

I sip Harney & Sons Earl Grey as Paul Simon’s “Kodachrome” on my TV music channel beckons I harmonize with it as I type. Even with this COVID clusterfuck we’re still untangling from, I’m in a good and bad place with writing. This, too, can use a needed reboot, or that I’m crying for change to supplement this part of the creative craft with something else communally. Whereever I land, what some of you call in a good place after sorting, dusting off, spring-cleaning and the like, untreated ADHDs like me always find a good and not-so-cool place to be in simultaneously. How can we live like this, you’re wondering? ‘Taint easy. But maybe the magic of the hovering hummingbird is a lovely reminder to be patient while moving quickly, but to know when to stay patient as I’m moving, be it slow or fast, or I die before it’s time. And to extend this same allowance to humanity, regardless who they are or if they’re clueless in which next to go as I am, is the “wisdom” in the hummingbird’s work.

English Language Be Gettin’ a Bad Rap Like a Overrated Airport Sammich!

That got your attention, you sticklers for grammar and its rules. For those who’re fast and loose with this part of the writing universe, you’re (maybe) applauding me I’m with you.

Before we get into the breakdown of the English language and what it isn’t and is, let’s explore some history.

From what I’ve remembered in my Greek & Latin Roots of English more than two decades (twenty years or a “score”) in completing my B.A. for journalism, our language has evolved through the Germanic and Hellenesic Wars. It also took on much change during the Battle of Hastnigs in 1066. An all day bloody battle, taking out King Harold allegedly with an arrow through his eye, ended his reign and destoryed his forces. Harold had been the final Anglo-Saxon King of England.

More of what History.com says about this war: “After his victory at the Battle of Hastings, William marched on London and received the city’s submission. On Christmas Day of 1066, he was crowned the first Norman king of England in Westminster Abbey, and the Anglo-Saxon phase of English history came to an end. French became the language of the king’s court and gradually blended with the Anglo-Saxon tongue to give birth to modern English. (Illiterate like most nobles of his time, William spoke no English when he ascended the throne and failed to master it despite his efforts. Thanks to the Norman invasion, French was spoken in England’s courts for centuries and completely transformed the English language, infusing it with new words.) William I proved an effective king of England, and the “Domesday Book,” a great census of the lands and people of England, was among his notable achievements.”

This book of my former professor’s, now in its sixth edition, says, “More than 60 percent of all English words have Greek or Latin roots; in the vocabulary of the sciences and technology, the figure rises to more than 90 percent. Through the study of the Greek and Latin roots of English, students can expand their knowledge of English vocabulary and also come to understand the ways in which the complex history of the English language has shaped our perceptions of the world around us.

“The Greek and Latin Roots of English maintains the book’s much-praised thematic approach. After an essential overview of world languages, and the linguistic histories of Greek, Latin, and English, the text organizes vocabulary into various topics, including politics and government, psychology, medicine and the biological science, as well as ancient culture, religion, and philosophy. The sixth edition features revised cumulative exercises in each chapter that reinforce both vocabulary and analytical skills learned from pervious chapter. The [sixth edition] also features alphabetized vocabulary lists, new photos and cartoons, and other reader-friendly updates.”
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I (naturally!) aced this class. I’ve always loved words, how they were used, what their breakdowns were, why some words stuck and others didn’t, etc. To expound on my recent post mentioning Schoolhouse Rock and how well I did with English because of those cartoon segments, that’s how certain parts of speech made more sense and opened horizons and doors for me. Until diagramming sentences came into my world in high school, that is. I didn’t bomb those; I got cratered. But I made up for it in doing well in other parts of speech, vocabulary, subtect, contextual meanings the author was exploring, and spelling. My favorites to this day: adverbs, prepositions, conjections, interjections, punctuation marks, similies, May-the-Fours (that’s metaphors to you in Rio Linda, haha!), and plays-on-words, or more commonely know as puns.

This post was inspired by a Little House episode (“School Mom”) where Caroline Ingalls pinched hit as a substitute while Walnut Grove’s regular teacher recovered from an injury. Among her charges was a near adult-aged boy near illiterate, a “Hold my beer!” moment for Caroline when her girls called the boy “Dumb Abel.” But it was a segment of this episode that always makes me misty-eyed: Each child holds a printed letter in front of him, and they takes turns representing their letter to eventually form a word. This, over time, helps the boy become literate (and sealing Landon’s often Disney-ending writing for this show–which is why I find the writing of The Waltons much stronger.). The teamwork behind this colossal effort, the simplicity in which words are just letters strung together in a certain order, and the light in his eyes how everything made sense broken down in simpler elements, was moving. That, and more importantly–somebody cared enough to care. And you’re never too old to learn, as evidenced in the fantastic book Life is So Good. So why should the adverbe, or any parts of speech for that matter, be shorted on one’s say so?

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After the show, I wondered about how anybody–writers, authors, cumudgeounly Enlgish teachers and grammaticitians, real, imagined, or self-appointed–ALWAYS have something nasty to say about somebody else’s use of the language. Foreigners are laughed at, made fun or, or corrected to their face about its use when it’s not their first line of communication. Deaf or hard-of-hearing had to evolve sign language to its bare bones; I know a little ASL to converse in it slowly. For pregnant, they place their hands so their fingers are a third on top of one another, palms down, and arc them from their bodies to touch the bottome of their bellies. Together means hooked index fingers to “link” them. Asking the time means pointing at your wrist and holding up your fingers to represent the number; thank you mean to blow a kiss; yes means to nod your head or your fist; no means to shake your head or that fist side to side; hot means to fan yourself; cold means you hug yourself is if you’re freezing; and walking means moving your index and middle fingers in a method in how legs would walk. See where this is going? So since when did those who speak English get to be the arbitors of what’s right to say and not to?

So if a grammaticitian comes into your world, dead-set on your speaking properly in your writing as strict as the grammar rules are, your end results may come across stuffy at best, or reading like the worst pain in the ass Grammar Police Patrol you’ll ever know handcuffed you and your creativity. Nobody needs this–not you, not me, and certaintly not readers. So it shouldn’t be any surprise to you, Dear Reader, when I came axross the trend of–

DON’T USE ADVERBS IN YOUR WRITING!!!!!

all the F over social media. Done by a genre-creating author, yet, with the bestest-selling book on the craft of writing in publishing history, save for The Elements of Style.

While everyone might’ve taken this author’s word as gospel, I had to contest the premise–little ol’ David me daring to cross swords with the Goliath, multi-award-winning bestseller. Not so much I come by dissension naturally–if some of you saw my recent unapologetic and unrepentant stirrings and stances in a writing group, you’ll know what I’m saying. But adverbs are one of the pillars of parts of speech; that’s like saying you’re overusing nouns, or you’re breathing too much. Instead, this author should’ve declared JUST as boldly–

USE ADVERBS LIKE YOU SHOULD DRINK–RESPONSIBLY!

Didn’t happen. So I did it.

Oopsie.

I was applauded in some cases–“Thank you, Scribe, for sticking up for us foreigners newly learning English.”–but for the most part, people attacked me in perception I attacked him! Was I a bestseller (No.)? Was I jealous (**laughing** Hardly.)? Oh, yeah? Where’s your book (In my computer, thank you for asking. Next!)? Gonna self-publish because traditional houses think you suck, huh (Um . . . some who’re traditionally published with contracts as thick as my femur is long are more interested in checking a PC box than honing decent writing for repeat business, and that ain’t me, so . . . NEXT!)? And so the storm raged. But I held my ground for the lowly, ain’t-good-for-nothin’ adverb. Inevitably, the next part of speech to be attacked, which I meant satirically, was the semi-colon. I called it–but I was only kidding! The bullies weren’t. And still ain’t–they’re attacking free speech altogether, never mind parts of it, but that’s another topic for another post.

Here’s the thing: all parts of speech, punctuation, consonants, vowels, and its references, have a place, even the ugliest of words. They. ALL. Have. A. Place. Yes, there is such thing as too much telling. There is also such thing as too much showing. And too much setting. Too much descriptions. Too much backstory. Too much info-dumping. Too much . . . too much . . . too much . . .! So it’s the adverb’s time to be bullied. In an era of can’t we all just get along, there sure is a lot of bullying going on we’re told to not do otherwise. And taking adverbs out of sentences for the sake of, guess what happens to and with that sentence? Its subtext and context are changed subtly and obviously so the paragraph around that one sentence with the shameful adverb being cross-examined is also changed. Leave the adverb alone. It’s has a place–so let it do the job it’s supposed to do.

And there is such a thing as too much use in strong verbs, too; once everyone’s doing it, and is doing it, what makes it special in that piece of writing anymore? To steal a phrase from one of my many favorite PIXAR movies, The Incredibles, where Syndrome says, “Once everyone are Supers . . . no one will be,” is just as fittin’ here as it is anywheres else.

Not bad advice from a villain, despite discovering too late his cape was a bad idea. So you too, Dear Author for your even Dearer Readers, don’t let YOUR writing cape do you in on the adverb, either. ‘Sides, if Superman and Batman and Robin handled theirs with finnesse and class, please make your use of grammar just as messy to match your imagination. Do so freely, wildly, often, richly, and boldly.

And, of course . . . do so indubitably.

God Winks: It’s The Little Things

Being a bombastic big mouth from old school NYC, it’s hard to get me to willingly shut up. When I do, you best believe it’s intentional, purposeful, and to hold my attention. 9/11. A sun dog. A newborn with her fantastic Heaven-scent aroma on her onesie and in my nose. A great sleep.

And . . . God winks.

Although I’d drafted this on the 27th anniversary of turning 27–that’s called “Awesome 54some!” for those of you in #RioLinda **smirk/sarc**–it’s been dreadful to find fresh words for my Casebooks, my Threesome of Magic mysteries, even this platform. We were in the biggest game of cooties I’ve seen in life via COVID. A shutdown wrecking economic havoc. The pokiness of re-opening states so people can resume their lives–or move on in them to settle loved ones’ affairs. These stupid city burnings after an unfortunate series of events in Minnesota. And still having to wear a mask, it becoming a symbol of murdering logic, common sense, and reason in favor of groupthink, fear, and forced compliance.

But I digress.

I prayed, mainly because I couldn’t take the overwhelm anymore. It was the one thing I had some control over, some input for, some say in. When I wasn’t praying, I was sleeping. A lot. No, I’ve no plans to harm myself or others–don’t tempt me on the “others” part, please! :)–but I found it a solace He was listening.

That’s when the little reminders popped up like mushrooms do overnight. Specifics only I’d know. Hoo-boy, did I know them.

Ever heard of Squire Rushnell? Oh, yes you have. If you’re familiar with Schoolhouse Rock and other Saturday morning children’s programming on ABC back in the day, that’s the name behind this part of pop culture. He put that network on the map for inspiring 3 to 7 minute animated segments in history, science, math, government (“I’m Just a Bill”), and grammar in between cartoons, much like CBS did In The News with Christopher Glenn in between theirs (and I switched channels often to not miss either one!). Anyhoo . . . Rushnell kept adding up little coincidences in his life leading to the big ones like Schoolhouse, and how that lead him to be ABC’s Children’s Programming Prez. And hey–if he helped kids do better in school with these subjects of the songs and visuals they provided, #360Win.

Mushroom #1: My husband Pete picks up flowers in bright purple and vivid yellow. I gasped, cried, then asked if he remembered if I told him of my villain’s signature colors in my TOM mysteries. He said no–he just felt he had to get them when he saw them as a sweet birthday gesture.

Mushroom #2: Somebody shares a meme on social of an entryway from the movie adaptation of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Almost immediately, a scene drops in mind for my TOM mysteries I can plenty use to move the plot(s) forward. Yes . . . I gasped in sweet surprise again.

Mushroom #3: A Times fan since my mother, God rest her, gave me a back-to-school Snoopy watch for third grade when I was seven (I skipped second, being so bright), fostering my love for analog timepieces since. Along with the flowers, my husband gifts me a watch called Vincero (pronounced vinchairro), and the brand translates in English from Italian, “I will win.” Vincero’s pretty damn close to missing-his-ear van Gogh. Vincent Price. And my Casebooks Jay Vincent. Oh, sure–Casper’s and Logan’s names’d pop up plenty of times outside of their Casebook lives in my life, but Pedregon’s seldom did . . . before that watch company came in over my transom.

Mushroom #4: A numerology newsletter I’m subscribed to, the author suggested in part of her communique for this month that, for those who draw, to keep drawing. Those who create and craft, keep creating and crafting.

And for those who write?
You guessed it: keep writing.

Squire Rushnell created God Winks when he thought coincidence did a disservice to those unexplainable-timing-in-a-good-way little things that make you take notice. It’s not a religious aspect you must believe to see the treatise behind the belief, although Rushnell is a Christian. It’s more like Chicken Soup for the Soul’s cousin or bolder little sister. I haven’t read the book, but I plan to. It’s an occasional nod you’re headed in the right direction when you’re not sure you are, to keep staying on track–or need a boost when you don’t want to stay the course, as was my circumstance, but poignantly special after a monstrously trying week in a disgustingly taxing first half of 2020.

But in the middle of our national storm, another birthday’s come and gone. That, all things considered, is the best God wink there is.

Apologies for the heavy use of adverbs in this update. “Lolly’s Adverb Store” takes full blame for that!

Why A Writing Rebel is #SorryNotSorry

What do Elmore Leonard, Tim LeHaye; Rod Serling; Nat Hentoff; Mark Twain, Paula Danziger; Robert Cormier; Sidney Sheldon; Edgar Allen Poe; Jackie Collins; Mickey Spillane; Michael Crichton; Madelaine L’Engle; Maurice Sendak, and Theodore Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, have in common?

If you said they’re all dead, good for you. As of this post, they still very much are (and with this COVID headache still with us, they died of that, I drop sarcastically 😏). But if you also said they were writers who were in my reading and TV library as an impressionable, rebellious, and misunderstood girl-rascal, you know me well. Brace yourselves–doing so is precarious. **smirk**

Need another hint? I’ll give you a minute to find the clue in the above paragraph. **insert “Syncopated Clocks” theme here.**

Time’s up.

Before #sorrynotsorry was a thing, they wrote rebelliously. For their time(s), they crossed lines and pushed comfort zones tame by today’s scary-dark and nakedly demonic standards. The thought was to push philosophical, societal, and imaginative boundaries and platforms within reason, and not to go against physical nature or humanity. This I was okay with. In fact, it kicked me to be a better author without having to plumb the scarier, darker side of what imaginatively could be.

In a critique of my 2nd book’s opening chapter, the now-fired editor said she loved it . . . but, despite my saying I’m a woman writing from a guy’s POV, she constructively found the female descriptions objectifying (but missed my other bigoted names briefly mentioned. Huh. 🤔). In today’s times beyond the hypocritical #MeToo movement, Harvey Weinstein, and the persistent tug-of-war between the sexes, it’s a tightrope balance between staying true to my unbridled imagination or being mindful of those finding “broad,” “cutie,” “honey,” “sweetie-pie,” “tomato,” “dame,” or the “C” word objectionable. None of these bother me if ever said IRT (in real time for those of you in Rio Linda), save for the “C” one. To be fair, I’ve use that for women being jerks when “basic bitch,” “thot,” or “nasty-ass ho” isn’t strong enough to call her (thank you, urbandictionary.com!) 😄😏. Justified, of course. Or muttered under my breath when it wasn’t.

Writing on the edge should happen by default no matter the genre; language is as perilous and nasty as it is sweet, lovely, and gossamer. Twain used nigger several times in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Stevie Wonder’s speaking parts in the “Livin’ For The City” track on his Inner Visions album mention this, too. I don’t shy from the questionable, objectionable, or downright frightening. To face it head-on to fine tune a moral and ethical compass, and to know where to draw a line I won’t ever cross. Children’s author Maurice Sendak told Maury Safer in a 60 Minutes interview he wrote about the monsters in Where The Wild Things Are because “. . . .the nightmares kids have–and monsters in those nightmares–are as real as their mommies and daddies are.” To put them down tangibly, he figured, not only gave kids something credible to show kids a grown up thought as they did, but that if kids faced their fears, they weren’t too scary big to fight them back, the kids weren’t too young to fight them at all, and to win. In his In The Night Kitchen story was where a naked child was shown for the first time, reasoning during the Safer interview, Sendak said he showed a naked child in the illustrations because he didn’t think kids were worried about clothes in their nightmares. I don’t fully remember the story, but if memory serves, the boy, dreaming he was in a dough suit, obviously couldn’t be clothed under the pastry; how much sense would this make? Sendak’s Night Kitchen was boldly, #sorrynotsorry controversial as Marilyn Monroe’s 1951 naked appearance in the first issue of Playboy. 🤔😏

L’Engle’s Wrinkle In Time held a God-heavy theme in the Murray kids and friend Calvin saving Professor Murray from an evil force (and notwithstanding, a genius five-year-old unapologetically using a vast vocabulary in his character, but still manages to stay an adorable Charles Wallace. This sparked an argument how can five-year-olds talk on a near Einsteinian level? Um, some can. And some do.). Danziger’s The Cat Ate My Gymsuit today could be deemed as fat-shaming in Marcy’s character, her mother a pushover in the shadow of her husband’s and Marcy’s father’s blustering bullying. But the story showcases a young teacher’s outside-the-box instruction in a conservative community determined to see their kids taught English by the book of English–Dead Poet’s Society, anyone? This wasn’t far off the mark of Danziger herself, since she’d been a full time English teacher before her writing career took off. In this story, Marcy’s high school teacher impacted her past the classroom.

Be they gentle stories showing a shy little black cat’s courage, or a Catholic family’s sons adventures in 1898 Mormon Utah, to grittier reads bearing themes in the plots that challenged my opinions and forcing my stances a closer look, these authors didn’t shy from their stories. They all pushed me past the story in their word choices, in the norms at their time, and letting their imaginations weave tales maybe the harsher themes and beliefs were better swaddled in than given so starkly. Whichever came first, it doesn’t matter and didn’t matter. They left a patina on me in their unapologetic storytelling to this day has gotten under my own storytelling skin. They were #sorrynotsorry doing that to me, so I pay it forward to anyone reading me, also unapologetically Sorry/Not Sorry. As one Logan McGuinness of the Casebooks and Threesome of Magic Mysteries would tell me: be bold AF, Missye. He’s right. I can’t let the kid readers and kids at heart ones, down. Or him, either.

Speaking of Mr. McG, I’ve a scene in my 2nd TOMM mystery I’ve finally smoothed the wrinkles from. Best I get to it. And best too, you, Dear Reader, find books and stories that push you past your easy, your simple, your familiar, your typical. For you Dear Authors reading this, your homework is to keep your imaginations deadly, unsettled, and untamed in good ways. That’s where the fun lies. In this wild ride we’re all on dealing with COVID, no one’s gonna much worry about writing dangerously anymore. We lived it.

And guess what? Even my lyrical writing, which was what the now-fired editor told me Casebook #2 is, is also writing lethally. But it’s lethal to the healing we’ll need on the other side of this COVID madness. Writing dangerously doesn’t always mean pushing, provoking, or even angering. Writing soft without the superfluous is a true skill to unapologetically be Sorry/Not Sorry for. I’m happy to be that rebel to do it.